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Why Puyallup spent more on homeless lawsuits than actual help

A homeless camp in Seattle's Georgetown neighborhood. (KIRO Radio, Carolyn Ossorio)

The city of Puyallup has spent more on lawsuits around homelessness in the past five years than it actually has on nonprofits to serve the homeless community, according to The News Tribune. At the same time, the city says it wants to collaborate more with an organization called New Hope, which happens to be the same organization the city spent so much money over in legal battles.

It’s a topic that in many ways has defined the Puyallup council races. Puyallup City Council candidate Paul Herrera joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss this discrepancy and what motivated him to run.

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“Homelessness is affecting everybody and it seems like in Puyallup, the perception is that we don’t know what we’re doing … Puyallup has always taken care of its temporary homeless with Helping Hands and St. Francis House, and we want to continue that part. But then there’s the element that doesn’t want it, the criminal element … and we need to look at the root causes,” he said.

Since 2014, Puyallup has spent at least $1,099,724.54 on lawyer fees for homelessness-related lawsuits, a settlement for a lawsuit from those who lost belongings during a homeless camp raid, and legal expenses associated with a federal investigation on city restrictions on a local homeless shelter, reports The News Tribune.

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“You know, $1 million is a lot for this city. People pay taxes here, and they don’t want to go to that type of stuff,” he said.

Herrera had a 20 year career in the military, including combat deployment to Iraq. He also worked as a law enforcement officer, working as a undercover narcotics detective and a SWAT team leader, among numerous other roles.

Homelessness from bigger cities creeping into Puyallup

Like many candidates in small cities, he’s noticed the slight creep of homelessness and related issues migrating from the bigger cities to small ones like Puyallup.

“There’s this creep everywhere. What happens sometimes in the area, especially the Tacoma area is that they have big city homeless shelters and things like that, and they do have rules. The people who are doing bad in those shelters, they can get kicked out of those areas so they’ll migrate to let’s say Puyallup, and I’ll see the same faces that I deal with every day in Tacoma.”

“Cops — we see the human side of things, we talk to the homeless, we know their plight. We know the different layers of homelessness. It comes down to drug addiction and mental illness, which are one and the same … Homelessness has always been around, and we just got to keep fighting at it.”

To learn more about his campaign, head to paulherrera.net

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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